Inevitable Conversations + Getting Twins to Sleep + Launching Adult Children

www.amazon.co.ukSue Sanders, author of Mom, I’m Not a Kid Anymore.
Topic:
Navigating 25 inevitable conversations that arrive before you know it.
Issues: How not to be blindsided by your child’s pre-teen years; tough conversations like, “You and Dad do that?” “Did you ever smoke marijuana?” “Can I get American Eagle jeans?” and “Do these shorts make my butt look big?”

www.amazon.co.ukMarc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins.
Topic: Sleep training your multiples.
Issues: The difference between healthy sleep and junk sleep; why it’s important for babies to learn to fall asleep unassisted; tips for synchronizing twins’ sleep schedules; recognizing early drowsiness clues so you can catch the sleep wave before it’s too late…

Ellen Gibran-Hesse, author of Failure to Launch.
Topic: How to get teens and young adults to independence.
Issues: Guide your teen to the life and job skills needed to be independent; helping a college student structure their college experience so they’re employable after graduation; helping teens and young adults develop money management skills; how to do all that and still maintain close relationships.

Want your kids to learn more? Give ‘em a break. A nice, long break…

No matter what you think of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind legislation, there are some results that can’t be disputed. One of them is that schools were under a huge amount of pressure to keep their scores high. I have nothing against high scores, but sometimes the costs outweigh the benefits. A lot of schools, for example, decided that they didn’t have enough time during the school day to teach their kids what they needed to know. So they did something that might have seemed logical at the time, but was a complete disaster: They cut out recess. We’re not talking high-schools here, or even middle schools. There are tons of kindergartens where the kids don’t get recess.

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Houston, We Have a Problem…

Dear Mr. Dad: How do you handle a 21-year-old male who’ dropped out of college, has no job, and has been living in our house for the past six months? My husband and I provide our son with a car, insurance, gas, clothes, and cover all his healthcare. But whenever we ask him to do anything around the house, he flat out refuses or does it poorly. And whenever we bring up the issue of his finding work and moving out, he gets angry and accuses us of not supporting him. What can we do?

A: My first reaction is to suggest that the next time your son leaves the house you call a locksmith and have all your locks changed. However, that would only work (to the extent that it would at all) if your son was responsible for the entire problem. He’s not. In fact, I’d say that you and your husband are making an already difficult situation even worse.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone in having an adult child move back in with you. Some studies have found that as many as a third of all young adults under 35 are living with ma and pa. The situation is so common that there’s actually a term for these adult children: “boomerang kids.” The bad news is that these arrangements are often extremely stressful on everyone involved, but especially on parents who had planned to downsize during their retirement years.

Okay, back to you. By providing your son with free room and board, transportation, and insurance, you’re undercutting any incentive he might have had to learn how to grow up and survive on his own. I’d actually go a step further and say that you’re encouraging your son to be a slacker—and the only way the situation is going to improve is if you change your behavior. Here’s what you’ll have to do:

  1. You and your husband need to get on the same page. Having one of you push for independence while the other slips your son wads of cash under the table will guarantee the status quo. What do you want to have happen, and over what period of time?
  2. Once you’ve come up with a plan, call a family meeting. Ask your son how he sees the current situation. Does he plan to finish college? Look for work? How long does he expect to be living with you? It’s possible that he’s feeling guilty and maybe even ashamed.
  3. Start charging. The value he places on his living arrangements is directly proportional to how much he has to pay. In other words, the less he pays—for rent, car, insurance, food, clothes—the more he’ll take them for granted. If he has income, put a dollar value on household chores and have him work off his debts.
  4. Get out your calendar. Your goal is to get your son ready to live in the real world. But it’s not going to happen overnight. So come up with a timetable that includes reasonable targets (enroll in college for the next semester, find a job within 12 weeks, move to your own place within six months, etc).
  5. Create rules and enforce them. Can he bring dates home to spend the night? Do you expect him to call if he’ll be spending the night elsewhere?

As the economy continues to stagnate, this is a bigger and bigger issue. We’ll go into more details in future columns.

Separating Church and Teen

Dear Mr. Dad: It’s been a longstanding tradition in our extended family to attend church on Sunday and then go out to brunch. However, now my 14-year-old daughter says she no longer likes church because she finds that services are boring. My husband says we should force her to go, but I don’t think that would work. What’s your take?

A: If Sunday services have been a family tradition for years, I can certainly understand your disappointment at your daughter’s refusal to go with you. As you can imagine, there are quite a few factors that might have led to this sudden change of heart. Chances are, though, that few if any of them have anything at all to do with religion.

Even under the best of circumstances, it would be truly earth-shattering (and very, very weird) if you and your daughter agreed on everything, and you approved of every choice she made.

To start with, at 14, your daughter is just getting warmed up for her big teenage rebellious stage. You remember that one from when you were her age, right? Part of becoming an adult means getting out there and forging her own identity, one that’s separate (and in many aspects, 180 degrees away) from yours. That means questioning (and often rejecting) the values, beliefs, traditions, and just about anything else that you hold dear. That’s how it looks from your perspective. From yours, however, your once-sweet little girl is morphing into a defiant teen with a mind and opinions (and, probably, a mouth to go with them) that aren’t even close to aligning with yours.

The good news, as we’ve talked about in previous columns, is that this is a normal part of the process of maturing, becoming independent, and learning to make her own choices and decisions. The bad news is that it may not be any fun—for either of you—for a while.

So what should you do? Well, you begin by not doing what your husband suggests. Forcing your daughter to go to church when she really, really doesn’t want to will backfire. Instead of getting her more engaged, you’ll be driving her away and she’ll dislike services even more than she already does.

Instead of criticizing your daughter’s decision, you and your husband need to talk to her about how important the services and religion in general have been to you personally. Have there been times when your faith has given you strength and hope in difficult circumstances? Or when members of your community have provided help and support when you needed them most? If so, share this with your daughter. If she can see the benefits and meaning that your faith and your community have given you, she might be more willing to reconsider her decision.

Her complaints that services are boring, however, are something altogether different. She may, in fact, be right. What’s the average age of people who attend services? If it’s mostly older folks or young families with small children, the sermons and community activities that may be perfect for those groups would be completely irrelevant to a teenager.

As a compromise, could you find a nearby church that offers a youth ministry and outreach programs geared to teens? I’m betting that she’ll be able to relate much better to that type of worship environment than to traditional services, and she’ll be hard pressed to find excuses not to go.

At the very least, your daughter will see that you’re flexible, reasonable, and take her opinions seriously—qualities even the most rebellious teenager will appreciate!

Failure to Launch

Dear Mr. Dad: Our 27-year-old son lost his job and moved back in with my wife and me. While it’s nice to have him around, it’s been six months now and he shows no sign of moving out. Part of the problem is that my wife and I have very different approaches. I want our son to get his life back on track. But the other day I discovered that my wife has been giving him money every month. She’s even been paying some of his credit card bills for him. This has led to a lot of tension around the house—between me and my wife, and between me and my son. What can we do?

A: Boy are you in a tough spot. Actually, you’re in two tough spots at the same time. On one hand, you’ve got an adult child who is waaaaay too old to be living someplace where he isn’t making a rent or mortgage payment every month. On the other hand, you’ve got a wife who’s actually encouraging your son to keep doing exactly what he’s been doing: freeload. Fortunately, there is a solution. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy.
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Teens and the Part-Time Job

Dear Mr. Dad: My fifteen-year-old wants to take a part-time job at a local fast food place. Actually, I’m not so sure he wants the actual job, just the money that goes along with it. Although I think it would be a great growth opportunity, I’m also worried that his grades will suffer with college just around the corner. I’m thinking of increasing his weekly allowance instead to make up at least part of the difference. What do you suggest?

A: Remember the first time you saw one of your classmates behind a counter a local store? If you’re like me, you were consumed with envy for the power, independence, and the adulthood it seemed to represent. I immediately began badgering my parents to let me join the Mysterious Society of the Working Teens.
So first of all, I wouldn’t assume that it’s all about the money. There’s probably a healthy dose of yearning for independence and maturity, and increasing the allowance might would have a negative effect in those areas.
Let’s take a look at the pluses and minuses:
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